Thursday, April 26, 2007

Final Post

Well, here it is, one of those moments--those really, really, big moments when you know things will never be the same.

This is the last blog I will write before I am an actual author.

I'm off to Denver for a really great conference, with people from all over the world who want and are doing essentially what I am. They live to know Jesus, to find His grace and life sufficient for all of life, to live by the Spirit, and to help others do the same. It's what they long and live to do--they're wired for it. Think it might be good?

Waiting for me there are the very first copies of my book, Better Off Than You Think--God's Astounding Opinion of You. I will open a box shipped from the publisher, and there it will be. I wonder what I will feel...

So, this is it--my final post. Until the next one. But then everything will be different, right?

The SEP Award

The winner of this year's SEP (Somebody Else's Problem) Award goes to...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Is It Possible?

How often do you think of this verse?

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,..." (Romans 8:1)

How does it effect your every day life?

It is absolutely astonishing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Now That's A Beauty!

Sometimes I just cannot resist odd or funny tidbits of this.

WAYNESBURG, Ky. — Miss America 1944 has a talent that likely has never appeared on a beauty pageant stage: She fired a handgun to shoot out a vehicle's tires and stop an intruder.

Venus Ramey, 82, confronted a man on her farm in south-central Kentucky last week after she saw her dog run into a storage building where thieves had previously made off with old farm equipment.

Ramey said the man told her he would leave. "I said, 'Oh, no you won't,' and I shot their tires so they couldn't leave," Ramey said.

She had to balance on her walker as she pulled out a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun.

"I didn't even think twice. I just went and did it," she said. "If they'd even dared come close to me, they'd be 6 feet under by now."

Ramey then flagged down a passing motorist, who called 911.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Well, Shut My Mouth

This is the cover of my book, sports fans. If you read last night's blog, then go ahead and have a good laugh on me.

My book goes to print tomorrow, and I'll likely have some copies before the end of the month. Wow.

Thoughts about the cover?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hanging In The Balance

I don’t want to trust God.

I have always known that there is a part of me that just doesn’t believe God is able to do everything He wants, or that He’s going to pull it all off the way it should be pulled off. You know, in a way that is obviously best.

When things are going okay, when what I think is reasonably God’s will comes to pass, well then, great—I trust God. What a moment.

But when things are not going the way they should, or if an obviously beneficial-to-God kind of thing doesn’t seem to be coming about, then I wonder. And the worst of all is if I’m involved in it—if my life hangs in the balance. That was today.

I believe that God directed me to the publisher of my book. I believe it. So however it all goes, I’ve been living by faith as I progressed along the winding and long avenues of book publishing. But today was rigorous and, well, miserable.

You see, my book has been in process for two years—two years! And really, it is the distillation of all my Christian life, so if I’m a little particular about what goes on the cover and back of the book, you’ll understand. And, I’m an amateur photographer as well as an amateur graphic artist—look at and you’ll at least see why I sound boastful just now. So when my publishing house asks my opinion about various book jackets, I HAVE AN OPINION. And I’ve given it.

Frankly, with several opinions as strong as mine in the mix, it has taken nearly two weeks to settle on a jacket, which I thought we did on Monday. Hooray! While not a perfect, grand slam cover, I liked it. After a good number of duds before it, I was happy.

But this afternoon I learned that the senior editor had chosen another cover, one I have not even seen—and I’m struggling to breathe. I consider the cover to be my signature, a sort of dress rehearsal for what’s behind the curtain, and I haven’t seen it? Plus, it was described to me and it sounded awful. Not just fair, passable or marginal, but awful—terrible. And I have been upset ever since, rude to my wife, short with my girls, and short on words with God.

I have wanted to write email diatribes to my editor friends (at least they were before yesterday), wondering “What the heck?!” but have felt restrained. A big red light. Moments later, the desire to go on a verbal bombing run on message machines at the publishing house has demanded instant action, but I have determined to not follow through.

And, because I have paused in order to listen to the Spirit, I hear, “Trust Me. I am worthy.”

Alright. But I have come back to it again and again—Trust Me. I am worthy—and always the questions are the same—“Who am I? Whose idea was this? Who do you follow in faith? Why do you have anything to write about, anyway? Whose plan is this anyway?”

While my life feels as though it hangs in the balance, there is really something before that—God’s glory and God’s plan.

And I guess He can take care of that just perfectly. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to trust God—but I will. It’s easier when I’m going to bed…hope I can sleep.


Q & A

Daniel writes, "What do you mean when using the word flesh in what you say?"

I have written quite a bit about the biblical word "flesh," and you can get caught up by looking at four previous blogs called, "No Longer Flesh Bags." (Click here to begin.)

"Flesh" is one of the most misunderstood words in the New Testament, and we are, I think, terribly affected because of it. In my book (due out in a couple of weeks), I devote a lengthy chapter to explaining what flesh is, what it has always been, how it effects us today, and how to live free from it's influence.

But, to answer your question, here's a pre-edited excerpt found in chapter four of my book, Better Off Than You Think (God's Astounding Opinion of You).

As it was with Adam and Eve outside the gates of Eden, the flesh is that part of us which suggests a course for living which results in life without the life of God. Although God lives inside the Christian, living by the flesh means life without guts. It’s gutless because God isn’t in it—there’s no divine power involved.

How does it happen? Let’s take a look.

Each of us has a soul. The soul is what I like to call our perceiver-expressor; it feels and thinks and is aware of what’s going on all the time, and it looks for a way of expression. Turn on the television or walk into a room full of people or hear the phone ring, and you’ll be instantly alert and aware—your perceiver doing what it does. Your soul perceives something and you feel fear, you feel happiness, you feel sorrow, you feel calm—any number of things. What follows close behind because of the feeling is the need to do something, to make some type of expression, and you’ll think, “I’d better do something.”

At that point your perceiver-expressor searches for input and your flesh quickly suggests an expressive action—Here’s what to do—often with thoughts and feelings to match. The flesh is all about action, or output. It gives no respect to the presence of the Holy Spirit in you, nor to the fact that you are now a spirit. It runs right by you and speaks to your soul—“Get moving!”

And that’s where the danger lurks. If you don’t believe that your “insides” are vastly different than before you were born again, your soul will connect with your flesh (“Thanks for the suggestion—that’ll work.”), and the outcome or deeds of the flesh will express life without God. Even though He lives in you, He won’t be involved. The Kingdom of God now in you will be powerless, and life will be gutless. (Gal 5:19 NAS) It will be by the flesh and not by the Spirit.

Adam and Eve may never have grown accustomed to living by the flesh, life without God’s life, and were likely haunted all of their days by the memory of life once connected to God. But centuries later, you and I have never known even the haunting, so the desire for true life must come another way.

For some, it might go like this:

Your perceiver-expressor notices you’ve gained weight, and the thought which follows is that you’re not successful because you’re fat. Right on cue, flesh offers condemning thoughts—you knew this would happen, fatso! If you listen to that for more than a few seconds, flesh will suggest a course of action—Well, you’ll never change, so go ahead and eat a gallon of ice cream! Might as well have a little pleasure since you won’t have it any other way…And if there’s any ice cream in the freezer, it’s a goner. Or flesh might suggest, Buy some workout clothes, get back in the gym, and GET GOING! You really can’t live until you get thin…but you can do it if you make it your new crusade.

Following your ice cream binge, you may feel depression, shame, even rage, and swear you’ll never do it again. Or, as with the second example, you may feel a rush of motivation and buy a new wardrobe. Either way, the flesh is having its way with you because God isn’t involved in the expression of your life. He’s got nothing to do. To be clear, you’re not sinning, but neither are you living as you might.

Fortunately, that won’t work for long. Since you’ve been born again and redesigned by God, you now crave what you’ve never known—God’s life!

The Holy Spirit will put up a fuss and alert you—you’ll feel conflict, or like you’re just not getting all that you can out of your Christian walk. And you’re not because you’re not getting real life. While we’ll look intently at this in the next few chapters, the new way of living means that you look to the Spirit in you and He produces the life. In this instance, the Holy Spirit is also about output. The Bible calls His output the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When He is at work in you, when you listen and follow His leading, the expression of your soul will be godly.

Now while you don’t always have to wait for the flesh to exert itself before listening for the Spirit, to begin with you probably will. That’s okay because you’re just waking up to the desire and need of another way of life—you’ll get there! So if, after hearing the offering of the flesh concerning your weight you instead turn to the Spirit, you might hear—It’s alright, you know. We can walk together in this little thing. Let’s make it something for us to do together. Your life is with me—remember? And I never measure you by the scale—it’s not accurate. But I will satisfy you and we’ll be together. Living in this way you may feel genuine peace, love and assurance. Depression and shame will be gone because the life of God will be working in you; the expression which comes through you will make that apparent. You’ll have God’s life for your life.

That’s how important the soul is. It perceives life (accurately or inaccurately) and then expresses what goes on inside.

What your perceiver-expressor feels and thinks is not really the problem, so much as what happens because of it—the expression. If you, a spirit-son of God, choose to follow the suggestion of the flesh, you will express the behavior of the flesh—you’ll be a fleshly Christian, at least in that moment. You will have returned to a previous way of living when you were gutless, when God did not yet live in you. If, on the other hand, you choose to live by faith and offer yourself to the Holy Spirit now in you, you will express the activity of the Spirit—you’ll be a Spirit-led and Spirit-filled Christian. No longer gutless.

Whatever your soul perceives is no longer the problem area of your life. You don’t validate your walk with God if you’re having good thoughts and feelings, and you don’t invalidate your walk if you’re having bad thoughts and feelings. That’s not the point! Your starting point is not feelings, but spirit—the Holy Spirit in union with your spirit. Beginning with that truth, your life will look like it.

And that’s life.

I'm Baaaaaaack

I've been on a trip to So. California, where I was helping to take care of my mother. Pardon me for my blogginglessness.

With this very serious article, consider my malady cured.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Eeyore's Cloud

Yesterday I had what Eeyore would rightly call a “gloomy day.”

I’m in the heat of trying to please and get done as much as I can for as many as I can. I’m caring for my parents and scurrying around over-doing it for them (May I twist-off the cap of that Ensure and pour it for you, mother?), madly trying to meet with as many people as I can while I’m here in California, and seriously attempting to meet all the “We’re right at the finish line” needs of my publisher for my book.

Ahhh! (Pardon me.)

I don’t think I got anything exactly right—done. Most everything is ongoing, and not quite ready to be finished and offered up for prime time. So, in my head I’m hearing, “Hurry up and get it done!” It’s as if my mind thinks that it will be helpful to chant that over and over again—here’s your new mantra, Ralph.

I turned off my light at about, oh, 1:30 a.m…and couldn’t sleep. Great.

So when this morning’s momentary revival presented itself—a hot shower—I offered myself to the Spirit, saying, “What would you like to tell me? What little thing should I know?”

There is no condemnation.

Ahhh! Just what I needed. I had been living under Eeyore’s cloud and thinking I deserved the rain and gloom. And that’s always so helpful. You’ve had a frustrating, unproductive day—feel badly about it—that’ll help.

Well, today the Spirit is working in me. And while I’ve yet to pull anything off, or finish up perfectly a lingering-on project, in Christ I can do all things. I’m sure of it.


Everything For Me

Thought of the moment:

"Jesus, you do everything for me--why do I try to do everything for you?"

Living in me, He is so perfectly capable from there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Match Made In Heaven?

I occasionally drift by a humorous web site, To me it's a bit like a magazine I really enjoyed many years ago, Mad Magazine. Anyone remember the gap-toothed, Alfred E. Newman?

Anyway, here's a recent posting from their site. (If you'd like to visit, click here.)

Southern Baptists, Republican Party merge

WASHINGTON — The Southern Baptist Convention and the Republican National Convention have decided to merge, citing similar constituencies.

"There's so much overlap, it just makes sense," says Marc Racicot, chair of the RNC.

The merger — the largest by any religious or political body in U.S. history — gives birth to the newly-named Southern Baptist Republican National Convention, or SBRNC, a major new force in politics and doctrine.

The former church denomination will move its headquarters to Washington, D.C. in April. The Republican Party will share decision-making power on church issues and points of theology, and the denomination will have a strong say in the party's agenda.
Baptist leaders are pleased.

"We share almost the same membership, ideas and core values," says Bruce Danzinger who is overseeing the transition for the Southern Baptists. "Now we'll share space, fax machines, mailing lists. In general, we Baptists will cover Kingdom stuff, and the Republicans'll handle Caesar's side of things, but there'll certainly be cross-over."

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Is God's Hooray!

Today I cannot get over what Jesus' death and resurrection means for me—it has to be God's biggest and loudest hooray! I’ve been reflecting upon it throughout the day, and this says it all—

He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 4:25-5:1,2)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Plunging The Potty

So I’m a servant. Hmm…

Through the years we’ve given that word a nice looking cloak to disguise its original meaning of “slave.”

Hmm. I’m starting to get that.

I’m usually pretty comfortable with the idea of being a servant. I’ve waited on people a lot over the years and done plenty of things that I could easily categorize as servant-like. And I’ve regularly been aware of being Jesus’ servant, as well, consciously offering myself to Him for whatever He would like to do or say. I pretty much get the whole servant thing. “Whatever your idea is, Jesus, I’m here for you.”

But slave?

I’m learning that I don’t have that one down. A toilet in my parents’ home stopped up, with most all of the lovely little offerings you can imagine jostling for position. (A bit too graphic, I suspect.) Somehow my dad failed to notice. But I figured he was laying a trap for me, so I didn’t say anything immediately. Finally, when I could take it no longer, I said, “Dad, your toilet is stopped up.” “Oh. Well,” he replied, “I’ll get the plunger.” And I’m thinking good idea, dad. Returning from his hunt, he had a sort of glad expression on his face, and, handing it proudly to me, said, “Here you go.”

And that is a small snapshot of life these days with my mom and dad. From handing me a roll of toilet paper (don’t worry, I’m done with that topic now) and telling me to take it upstairs, to telling me to clear the table and do the dishes, having me chauffeur him around town, fetch dinner, or clean up a mess, I’ve found the pleasure of being a servant severely challenged. It’s probably about time.

I think of being a servant as an activity I choose, not one forced upon me. And that’s where the word has lost its meaning and intent—I’m wrong. So, I’ve done a bit of inner processing today, and sort of re-calibrated my thinking of why I’m doing all this. No matter what my parents think is the reason for my being with them and serving them (it’s the family thing to do, I owe it to them, etc.), I’m doing it unto the Lord. That doesn’t mean I just work like a, well, slave, and make no complaint, it means that I am regularly thinking about Him and sowing to the Spirit as I work. As I do, I reap the benefit of life in Christ—the power of the Spirit shows up in me.

It might be that I strangely enjoy being ordered around like the son-slave they always wanted, or, feeling the indignity of working over someone else’s potty (oops, I was supposed to be done with that), He makes me aware that He is with me, feeling everything I feel. And that makes plunging the potty worth it.

But you can forget about inviting me over to do it for you. This slave has drawn the line…for now.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter Moments

It's the weekend (close enough), so you know what that means. I couldn't resist this one--is that my fault?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Fleshly Fixation

(I’m spending some time with my parents while my mother recovers from surgery. For a time, my blogs will reflect life as it is right now—different.)

With doctors and nurses and people all around me who tell me what they do by using acronyms—I’m a CRNAA, a Certified Registered Nurse & Anesthesiologist Assistant—there are all sorts of relational nuances and demands to navigate. Further, the staff at the hospital is the epitome of racial integration, with accents and cultural distinctions all over the place. I’ve never heard my parents say “What?! What did you say?” so much in my life, so I’m alert at all times, interpreting for them as best I can. “He said ‘you’re going to be fine,’ mother…”

When my mother was just waking up from the anesthesia, she was, of course, groggy and a little disconnected. While the nurses and my father and I told her it was because of the anesthesia and not to worry several times, she was still frustrated. Finally I said something that seemed to calm her: “Mother, you’ve become a liberal.” “What?! What do you mean?” said my conservative mom. “Well,” I replied, “you’ve got a great heart, but not much of a brain.” She laughed out loud and that was the end of it.

What I’ve found personally is that I easily become fixated upon what I should be for people, rather than upon Jesus, who is everything for them already. And He lives in me—ready and able at every moment. I love sowing to the Spirit, who then manifests the power and life of Jesus, the very thing those people need. But in the need of the moment, I sometimes attempt to live by the flesh, rather than by the Spirit. That’s no way to live, neither is it a good way to give people what they need.

And I notice that I reach fatigue far sooner when I live by the flesh, rather than by the Spirit. His yoke is easy, His burden light, and that’s what I want today and what fits me perfectly.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ain't Happenin' For Easter

(Having been a pastor for many years, I know about the pressure to come up with something special for Easter Sunday—it's pretty big. I actually think these ideas have some merit…but what do I know?)

By Dave Tippett

10. Gigantic, super-loud fireworks explosions signal resurrection of Prince of Peace

9. The guy who lost his ear to Peter sells it on eBay

8. Angels swing from piano wire and, for the most part, make it down to the Tomb

7. Guys in metal skirts hurt, too: The Roman's Story

6. Our elderly and near-sighted ushers will wash your feet throughout the first act

5. It's the Jets (disciples) vs. the Sharks (Pharisees) in "West Bank Story"!!

4. Last Supper Dinner Theater

3. Stone rolled away and down the aisle

2. Orange construction barrels impede triumphant entry into Jerusalem

1. Aslan the Lion eats evil temple merchants

(Copyright 2005 Dave Tippett--used by permission)